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Liam Butler (23 Posts)

Liam Butler

Liam Butler is AVP of SumTotal EMEA and has over 15 years’ experience in the Learning and Talent Management sector. His experience encompasses working with SMEs through to leading FTSE 100 organizations. His specialist domain expertise includes Extended Enterprise, Aviation, Manufacturing and other highly regulated businesses including 21 CFR Part 11 and EU GMP.

June 19, 2018

How SumTotal and Skillsoft Help Make the Workplace Safe


June is National Safety Month. This year’s theme, “No 1 Gets Hurt,” aims to reinforce and highlight the many ways organizations can protect their employees and ensure no one gets injured or worse at work, on the road and in their homes and communities.

As usual, the National Safety Council is providing downloadable material highlighting a different topic for each week. I encourage everyone to avail of these invaluable resources.

How safe is the workplace?

Since the introduction of the 1974 Health and Safety Work Act (HSWA) outlining legislation regarding an employer’s responsibility and obligation to provide a safe work environment, there has been a significant drop in the number of workplace injuries and fatalities.

That’s not to say such incidents no longer occur.

In 2016/17, 137 workers were fatally injured and 609,000 workers suffered a non-fatal injury. Further, 31.2 million days were lost due to work-related ill health and non-fatal workplace injuries, at the cost of £14.9 billion to the British economy.

Statistically, healthcare and agriculture were the industries with the highest incidence rates.

Although the number of prosecutions against employers has fallen, fines totaled over £69 million for the 2016/17 period. The HSE attributes this to the new sentencing guidelines, which relate the amount of the fine to the turnover of the organisation in question.

Maintaining a safe work environment is in everyone’s best interest. Who is responsible for this? Everyone is, but often the onus falls on HR or L&D, if your organisation has one, to ensure employees are informed of their obligations around the issue.

Abigail Morakinyo, nurse and founder of Health in Check, a provider of health and wellness programmes says, “HR can play a role in health and safety compliance at work, by ensuring that every employee attends their induction prior to starting in their role.”

But it doesn’t stop there. Ensuring all employees have completed training and are current regarding compliance certifications is another essential step and one likely to fall on HR’s plate.

While at first, this might appear as yet another task in an already full basket, technology is making these checks and processes easier and more efficient than ever before.

What do I mean?

Let’s start by taking a look at what SumTotal and Skillsoft offer to help HR ensure a safe working environment for all.

Automation of Policies

SumTotal Workforce Management automatically ensures employees have the current certifications they need to be safe and compliant. The solution issues alerts when required training and certifications maintenance is upcoming. Also, it helps ensure that employees who are not compliant are not scheduled thereby preventing any situation where an employee is operating a machine or performing a task that might put them at risk.

Establishment of Proactive Compliance Processes

To pass a compliance audit, you will need to provide data to demonstrate that measures were taken to ensure employees, as well as suppliers, vendors and subsidiaries, are all in adherence to regulations. Producing this data is challenging unless you have the right compliance solution that will generate this data regardless of the data source. SumTotal can also facilitate routine internal self-audits to identify potential risk and assist you to take action.

Integrate training into flow of work

According to Bersin by Deloitte research, people have on average around 24 minutes per week to spend on learning. Therefore, as Josh Bersin says, “give people access to just enough information to do their jobs, deliver it when and where they need it, and use intelligence to make sure they get enough spaced learning and macrolearning in the process.”

SumTotal Learning Management can deliver Skillsoft Compliance content, courseware and videos, which cover safety and health subjects aligned to country-specific regulations and is designed to be easily integrated into an employee’s workflow. Skillsoft also offers micro training opportunities that easily integrate into an employees’ workflow, giving knowledge that can be applied on the job immediately. And they do. Currently, 86% of Skillsoft users apply the learning, compared to the typical 20-50%, while 96% felt confident that would know how to handle a compliance related matter effectively.

A safe workplace is a right, not an option.


June 7, 2018

What to Look for at This Year’s CIPD HR Software and Recruitment Show


The CIPD HR Software and Recruitment Show 2018 is happening June 13-14 at the Olympia London.

For anyone working in HR, it is a great opportunity to discover the latest products and services and hear from industry experts.

As always, there is a great selection of FREE learning sessions. For example, Gary Lacey, a SumTotal Senior Solutions Architect, will discuss ways to improve employee engagement with a world-class recruiting, onboarding and development solution. Gary is an experienced technical consultant with a passion for technology and supporting customer relationships.

GaryLGary’s presentation, “Improving engagement with a world-class recruiting, onboarding and employee development solution” takes place on Thursday 14th June from 13:15 to 13:45 in the Technology and Software Arena.

Employee engagement and retention are hot ticket items for nearly every company. In one study, 44% of HR directors said their biggest hurdle for 2018 is employee engagement, with staff retention and absence management and recruitment coming in at 36% and 33% respectively.

Employee engagement, or lack thereof, is not exactly a new phenomenon, and as a constant concern is a topic well researched and debated amongst industry professionals. What is new, however, is that technology is disrupting and reshaping not just employee expectations, but also how organisations handle and respond to these demands.

Deloitte acknowledges this and believes “Companies need a new approach – one that builds on the foundation of culture and engagement to focus on the employee experience holistically, considering all the contributors to worker satisfaction, engagement, wellness, and alignment.”

SumTotal offers a comprehensive integrated solution that checks these boxes. And we are keen to share just how we accomplish this. So, I encourage anyone going to this event to drop by and hear Gary explain how SumTotal can assist your organisation from the hiring to the development and retention of every employee.

The award-winning SumTotal, I’m excited to say, gives organisations the tools and technology at their fingertips to attract, retain and develop a world-class workforce.

We believe SumTotal speaks for itself. Drop by stand D28 for a demo.

If you wish, you can also request a free demo of SumTotal.

April 27, 2018

Discover How SumTotal Works With Your Organization And The New GDPR


May is just around the corner.  This year the month will take on a whole new meaning for organizations as the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into effect. The big question for now is, are you ready?

The new GDPR aims to strengthen the rights of individuals living within the EU and European Economic Area concerning how their personal data, as in all information that pertains to them, are both used, gathered, and stored.

Data protection is nothing new; however, the breadth and depth of this new regulation are moving into slightly foreign territory, particularly since now organizations fall under its remit regardless of where they are.

How does the new GDPR ensure personal data protection? In straightforward terms, the new ruling makes it harder for organisations to collect an individual’s data and must now demonstrate how the data is managed and tracked and must document the processes put in place to protect it. The new regulation also gives individuals the right to know whether or not personal data concerning them are being processed, where and for what purpose, and that the company possessing this information must provide a copy of this data, free of charge, in an electronic format.

The penalty for non-compliance is severe. If a company is found in breach, it can face fines of up to 4% of annual global turnover or €20 million, whichever is greater. And the rules apply to both controllers and processors making ‘clouds’ not exempt from GDPR enforcement.

We all agree that protecting personal data is important and an increasingly challenging issue as news of breaches have become all too common. However, for organisations, it can pose a massive headache.

Everywhere systems will have to be assessed, new guidelines and measures implemented and employees trained to understand and execute the changing regulations.

In anticipation of this challenge, SumTotal’s Talent Expansion Suite® 18.1 release offers enhancements that will assist your organisation to be compliant.

This support includes:

  • Consent: Feature/widget that ensures an organisation receives an individual user’s permission to collect personal data.
  • Portability of Data: Organisations can easily provide an individual a copy of the personal data that was collected in a common machine-readable format as per the GDPR.
  • Right to be Forgotten: Administrators can permanently delete any individual user’s personal data
  • Tracking Capabilities: The existing attestation feature (Terms and Conditions) can be leveraged to support the requirement of tracking employee consent to collect data

There are only a few weeks left before the new GDPR kicks in. Just how much it will impact or disrupt business and organisations remains to be seen, but we want to make it easier for customers to be in compliance. These latest enhancements ensure there is a mechanism within SumTotal to support the regulation now and in the future, and we can help guarantee data protection for individuals going forward.

To learn more about GDPR, read about 9 Key Changes and What It Means for You.


January 22, 2018

The Gig Economy Is Growing and HR Need To Pay Attention


The gig economy is “a labour market characterised by the prevalence of short-term contracts or freelance work, as opposed to permanent jobs”. In other words, it is very removed from any traditional notions of employment and subsequently the historical HR functions. And yet it would be negligent and foolhardy were HR to ignore this growing trend; regardless of how you feel about these short-term contracts or freelancers, the sheer size and growth of the gig economy means it demands our attention.

Currently, it is estimated that here in the UK at least five million people are employed in this way, with The Office of National Statistics (ONS) predicting by 2020 it will be worth £9bn.

Before exploring what this means for HR, I think it is worth noting that this growth, like the ripples of the pond, has multiple and far-reaching consequences. HMRC has already expressed concern about how this could impact public funds, and therefore government spending, given the fact that self-employment typically yields a lower return on both taxes and national insurance contributions, with the Office for Budget Responsibility estimating that if the gig economy continues at the current rate,  it will have cost the Treasury £3.5bn by 2020-21

And are such workers truly self- employed? A London employment tribunal recently ruled that Uber drivers should be classed as workers rather than independent contractors and last year some couriers for Deliveroo expressed plans to gain union recognition and worker rights.

While some gig workers choose the format because it offers flexibility and the chance to make some extra cash, it does leave employees vulnerable and at risk. Self-employment means no sick pay, no maternity pay, or other benefits and it can, and has, led to employers seeing it as simply a cheap way to employ people. Such is the ambiguity, that there have been calls made on the government to get involved and clarify the law, while a recent Institute of Directors (IoD) survey highlighted the fact that one-third of business leaders were unsure about the statutory definitions and the majority said they’d welcome clearer terminology.

However, in PwC’s report “The future of work”, we see that while many HR professionals expect to see at least 20% of their workforce to be contractors and temporary workers, less than a third are basing their strategies on this eventuality.

It is also worth noting that while we often think of ‘gig’ job as delivery-type positions, the Resolution Foundation’s findings suggest that the gig jobs that have seen the highest growth rate over the past 10 years are in typically well-paid sectors. Banking saw a 60% increase, public administration 90% and advertising 100%.

Companies are also using the gig economy to solve skills gaps, particularly in IT, where a specific skillset may be required for a limited time and turning to the gig economy to address this, the perfect solution.

HR should be responding to this and technology sure can play a huge role in how HR can and should adapt. Part of this is having a technology platform that supports a flexible hiring process, can produce data that identifies skills gaps, while also continuing to provide traditional HR services. Other recommendations include making contractors part of your TA strategy, treating temps like full-time employees, creating an alumni network, one you can dip in and out of as needed.

It will also be imperative that you have a fast and efficient onboarding process, in part so that you can get everyone working as quickly and as smoothly as possible. SumTotal’s Onboarding solution connects multiple processes in one intuitive place, from the welcome letter, forms and first day schedule to recommended learning and collaboration with peers and mentors. From this then it is easy to monitor and manage all employees, irrespective of their employment status.

And as the ‘gig’ economy continues to flourish, it will be this flexibility around employment that will only grow in importance and relevance.


January 5, 2018

6 Ways HR can Boost Workplace Productivity


UK productivity rates are dropping. And the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), don’t forecast a reversal of this trend any time soon.

When I read this my first thought was to look to the usual suspects – the economy or political climate, but surprisingly neither figure in analysis by experts. What does feature, and is considered the main reason for the slump, is something rather more mundane.

The findings from a Unit4 survey puts it like this: UK employees are wasting almost a third of the working year on repetitive, administrative tasks, at a cost of £411.4 billion to the service industry alone. Yep. Despite the many technological advances, employees are still wasting or misusing valuable time completing tasks that do not contribute in any way to an organisation’s production levels.

HR has to play a vital role in improving employee productivity. Josh Bersin recently suggested that HR should be renamed ‘the productivity department’.

To offer some guidance in this, I’ve put together a list of the top six ways you can use HR to boost productivity.

#1 Connect employees

Use internal portals/social networks as a central location where employees can find answers to procedural questions, or HR matters, easily and efficiently.

#2 Manage Performance

Using performance management tools and functions to smooth and expedite the review process, thereby cutting down on time and offering greater opportunities for managers to streamline work processes.

#3 Be mobile

Studies show that almost all businesses enjoy an increase in productivity when employees can use mobile devices outside of the office. Almost half even believed the increase was substantial. Interestingly quite a large number also believed they could enjoy even further increase if such use of mobile devices was made more effective, perhaps by having employees use them to enhance communication or for certain apps.

#4 Automate

The majority of workforce management solutions give you the tools to automate the management of appraisals, training programs, succession plans and other processes. They also store all employee information in one, making it ever easier for managers and employees to access HR data in a more efficient way.

#5 Data

A Brandon Hall study found that 64% of organizations believed talent analytics is important or critical to their business but only 4% were prepared and ready to use talent analytics.

We are producing so much data, but are we using it? I think in many cases, not. This data is producing invaluable insights into a workforce, everything from performance, learning opportunities to where identifying trends.

#6 Office layout

While the open office plan may suggest a more democratic workplace, research by Oxford Economics throws a wrench into this popular trend. Of the employees surveyed, 53% said the ambient noise reduced both their satisfaction and productivity with 41% admitting to not having the proper tools to block out noise and focus on their work. But before we rush back to cubicles and such, it is worth noting that there is noise cancelling equipment available, so again we see a problem with a relatively straight forward solution.

When Brandon Hall asked global participants in their Employment Value Proposition survey about their HR technology, only 13% agreed that it was making their life easier.

We need to change this figure.

November 1, 2017

What were people talking about at Unleash?


HR Tech World in Amsterdam, rebranded now as Unleash, wrapped last week. It was hectic and tiring at times, but it was one of the more productive events I’ve been to in a while.

Over the course of the two days, lots of themes and trends were discussed, some new and some we’ve been hearing about for quite some time now.

But I think there were five key topics that warrant our attention.

#1 The rise of the gig economy

Dr. Daniel Thorniley’s keynote drew attention to what some see as the end of the traditional workforce. Currently, approximately 160 million westerners work in the gig economy while in the US alone around 55 million people work as freelancers. Think about what that means for, well, everyone. For HR, for the people themselves who must now operate under different criteria than in the past, and how this changes the landscape for training and development purposes.

#2 AI in the factory

Every conference today addresses this issue, and Unleash was no different. During a panel discussion around analytics and what HR folks are doing with the data that is being accumulated, David Wilson of The Fosway Group asked us all to consider how AI is impacting industries like manufacturing where the work environment is rather atypical.

#3 Will robots mean job losses?

Henrik Schärfe, like so many others, is raising our collective awareness that soon many jobs will no longer be filled by humans. But rather than bemoaning this fact, he recommends we see it as an opportunity to upskill; to concentrate our training efforts on those jobs/skills that require creativity and judgment – tasks robots are less suited to, and then happily leave the more mundane, time-consuming jobs to them.

#4 Will the 4th Industrial Revolution bring about a dramatic change in HR?

Josh Bersin spoke at length on this. And he is in perhaps the best position to given that Bersin by Deloitte is about to publish their HR Technology Disruption for 2018 report. While he didn’t give everything away, suffice to say if you are an HR professional, and you are not preparing for how things are changing, then you are preparing to fail.

#5 HCM tools can help foster diversity and inclusion

Gartner’s Research Director John Kostoulas addressed this issue in his presentation, and I hope, given all the recent bad press surrounding this issue, people took note and returned to their organisations with some solid and actionable insights. I like that he stressed that not only must diversity and inclusion be recognized as one, but importantly that for such efforts to succeed, they must be CEO-led. Real, significant and lasting change is only seen when the decision-making is occurring at the top.

For us it was a real pleasure to see Sarah Otley, ‎Vice President and Next Generation Learning Lab Director at Capgemini University, a SumTotal client, present a session on how once they established the Capgemini University, they were able to reach over 190,000 geographically dispersed learners with ease and convenience, which consequently enabled them to align and accelerate their organisation’s learning goals.

And of course, it was great to see Morne Swart, VP Global Product Strategy at SumTotal, demonstrate our updates to the Talent Expansion Suite®.  Some great questions were asked, and I feel people were impressed with our latest enhancements.

Now it’s time to review all that we learned and prepare for next year!

October 23, 2017

Unleashing your people at Europe’s HR Tech World event


HR Tech returns this year to Amsterdam, the site of the very first HR Tech, where for two days a Who’s Who of the industry will gather to discuss the global leadership crises, the 4th Industrial Revolution and the speed at which technology is disrupting everything and how all this ultimately means now is an exciting, or challenging, time to be an HR professional.

As usual, there will be lots to do and a host of speakers to hear. There is 150+ sessions and keynotes across 12 stages, and the popular Future of Work, HR Tech and iRecruit main stages are all returning features.

Over 5,000 attendees will descend upon the RAI Amsterdam. We’ll be there on stand 103 and one of our clients, Capgemini is presenting.

Look for:

Learning in the Digital Age – a New Paradigm
Sarah Otley, VP – Learning Approaches Director & Learning Centers of Expertise Director, Capgemini

Sarah will talk about how digital technology is transforming learning and will cover:

  •  What’s driving the digital transformation of learning
  • The characteristics of digital age learning
  • How to design and build content for the digital age

Our own Morne Swart, VP of Global Product Strategy and Transformation, is also presenting a session, Optimum Talent Development in a Changing Environment. Join Morne as he discusses the ways HR and learning leaders can tackle talent development, Millennials and the major shifts in the workplace that are impacting how work is performed, evaluated and rewarded. He’ll also explain how the SumTotal Talent Expansion Suite can drive the success of the talent development process.

Or stop by for a demonstration of the latest version of our Talent Expansion Suite or request a demo.

Remember that‘s stand 103!

Tot snel!  (Dutch for see you soon)

September 7, 2017

Benefits in kinda


Perks. From gym membership to the company cars, it is these ‘extras’ that are perhaps more beloved and more lauded than our monetary remuneration. Okay so perhaps not more, but they are a starting point, a deal – breaker or maker – and given the current employment landscape and a certain predilection of some Millennials to switch jobs every few years, they play an ever increasing and important role in the draw and retention of desired talent.

While having free meals or massages at your desk are a great boon in the workplace, if as the employer, the provider of these ‘extras’, you do not ensure that where it applies, the tax on the ‘benefit’ as been paid, you are giving your employee a most unwelcome ‘perk’ and one that could potentially land them with a hefty tax bill.

Remember these extras, while considered part of a salary, are classified as benefits in kind and some are taxable and others not. This ‘are they or aren’t they?’ is confusing, but the situation gets even more confusing by the fact that if an error does occur, it can be the employee who is faced with an underpayment demand, not the employer.

The process for taxation of taxable benefits is quite straightforward really. Every country has their own rules and procedures, so it is the responsibility of the relevant department in each to know and follow the regulations. Here in the UK, once it is established whether tax is due on the benefit in kind, the employer then completes the relevant tax form, a P11D, with the details of the benefit values for the appropriate tax year, as well as working out the Class 1A National Insurance contributions on said benefits. If this does not happen, the employee could receive a P800 form declaring an underpayment of tax.

Obviously everyone involved would prefer not to have this happen, but is there something an employer can do to ensure it never happens?


Include them with your payroll. How?

By including any benefits in kind as ‘tax not pay’ amounts, a payroll system will automatically produce P11Ds with all the calculations, including Class 1A National Insurance returns.  Additionally, and this adds even more benefits, if the solution includes self-service options, the employees can themselves view their current and/or historical P11D forms online. Now that’s a great perk!

What makes using a payroll system even more advantageous is that we are increasingly seeing the tax process change. Currently, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is encouraging benefits in kind to be taxed and reported via payroll which means as more organisations adopt this approach, it is likely the P11D form will gradually become obsolete. With the inclusion of taxable benefits as part of the normal payroll process, the tax is then calculated and deducted at source and the relevant information included on the statutory real time information (RTI) returns, therefore eliminating the need to produce the P11D form.

In short, with a payroll system, an organisation can streamline the payment process, adapt to tax regulations changes while providing employees with peace of mind with the knowledge that their ‘perks’ are not going to come with a price.

Check out SumTotal’s Payroll Solution.



August 17, 2017

5 Things You Need to Know About Managing Talent Today


Even if you have never seen Fight Club you will no doubt be familiar with these now infamous and iconic lines:

The first rule of fight club is you do not talk about Fight Club.

The second rule of Fight Club is YOU DO NOT TALK ABOUT FIGHT CLUB.

Sometimes, I think HR can be a bit like that. Okay, so we do not pulverise each other, but it can feel like you are working in a vacuum, isolated both from the rest of your organization, but also, and importantly, from other people in HR. There is a myth that HR is something that happens behind closed doors and is only spoken about when a problem arises. Perhaps someone in finance has watched Fight Club one too many times, and then all of a sudden it’s all about HR.

But in the normal run of things, the day to day business of managing talent, this is what intrigues me.

What are your HR peers focusing on? How are other HR departments handling the ever evolving world of the modern worker whose expectations and experiences with HR is rapidly being reshaped by technology at a rate that is both thrilling and equal parts exhausting and infuriating?

Which is why when we do get some insights into the world of HR, we tend to inhale the information as though it was a last meal.

The Fosway Group and SumTotal’s Transforming Talent in the Modern Workforce research and Mercer’s Talent Trends 2017 Global Study have both recently completed large comprehensive studies on the modern workforce and what the findings reveal is that, not surprisingly, HR is feeling the heat of the modern worker and their collected expectations.

#1 Performance management and appraisals show the most progress

88% of company’s made changes to their performance management processes in 2016, with more to follow. However, only 44% reported that their performance management process was ready for the modern work force, which means most do not feel ready.

#2 Learning & Development is not ready for the impact of technology

Again, only 42% believe they are ready to provide ‘very advanced’ learning. What does this mean for L&D professionals, and how can HR address this poor showing?

#3 Career development is not developed

Only 1 in 10 said their approach is very advanced, with 69% saying they have work to do to be ‘ready.’ I am slightly surprised by just how low this number is, and do have to wonder why it is so abysmal? Are we not listening to our talent, who repeatedly express a desire to have the opportunity to advance in their careers and see it as a deciding factor when choosing an employer?

#4 Not promoting from within

Harnessing talent internally is still one of the least advanced elements of the talent agenda. Again, I am disappointed that companies are not seeing the incredible opportunity that is at their disposal, particularly since we all know there is a massive skills shortage and soon we will see companies fighting over talent.

#5 Hiring is misfiring

Less than 1 in 4 believe their talent pool approach is ‘ready.’ Without sounding like I am on repeat, this too is a figure that is less than satisfactory. What are we not doing that we should be doing?

Are you surprised by the results? Or are you nodding your head in agreement?

What would you say are the roadblocks facing HR? Well, if your answer includes any of the following – company culture, lack of organizational urgency around talent management and time constraints- you’d be right. When asked, these were the items that popped up the most.

But I’m curious now to see and hear what HR is doing to combat these concerns and improve the numbers. I’m also encouraged by customers I have the privilege of speaking with who are taking steps to right some of these wrongs.

Perhaps now that such areas of concern have been highlighted, we might see a greater redirection of focus or efforts. But we still need greater buy-in from CEOs and others who can impact company culture and shift the emphasis to greater awareness around managing talent today.

If HR is to win and succeed in managing a workforce that is itself evolving and facing new challenges, we must have more open discourse. Otherwise, much like Fight Club’s protagonist, HR will become embroiled in a war with itself.

June 21, 2017

What is the Future of HR and Talent Management?


HR must give value or give notice” – Dave Ulrich

Okay, so we’ve been hearing this statement for some time now. This, and the fact that HR is facing change like never before: politically, economically, and socially.

But what does it all mean to the person working in HR?

When they go into the office and open their email, what fills those subject lines? What issues or problems do they encounter on a daily basis?

This is what we wanted to know, so we asked. We surveyed HR teams from a broad range of industries, company sizes, and included those from both the public and private sectors. In total, we got 175 responses reflecting the thoughts and opinions of 150 organizations.

We took the responses and developed a white paper, The Future of HR and Talent Management.

Will the results surprise you? Perhaps.

Is it a worthwhile read? Definitely.

The survey provides some fascinating insights – including the reasons for the current penchant for switching jobs regularly, why the traditional bi-annual review is going the way of the dinosaurs, and what it means for everyone – not just HR – that only 10% of respondents rated their onboarding process as effective.

What is the benefit, the value of this information?

I think one of those interviewed, Fran Stott, HR Director with Story Homes provides the answer:

“I think the HR function needs to be able to show their value to the business, and strategically support the business in their medium to long-term ambitions.”

In other words, HR must give value. And to be of value, you must have knowledge, understanding, and a comprehensive and current picture of the situation, in this case the workplace environment, to then be in the best position to serve and provide, yes value.

To get this, I’d recommend you start by reading the white paper, here.

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